August 22, 2022

[Galactic Gypsy is] a massive slice of space-rock, which ramps up the epic nature by calling to mind the Planet Gong discovering Kashmir and Perfect Strangers. It’s Steve Hillage on Steroids, and if this is the soundtrack to galactic conflict, then I for one welcome our Sonarian Overlords...

Yes, that’s right. That’s the title. Now, it isn’t always possible to cover EPs here, though we do make exceptions when they are particularly interesting – and it has to be said that they don’t come much more interesting than this magnificently overblown three-song blast of unashamed kitchen-sink pomp and grandeur. You see, what we have here is actually a ‘Concept EP’. And not only that, a sci-fi saga set against the backdrop of a war for galactic control. In sixteen minutes. It’s absolutely, barkingly insane – and yet, somehow, it actually works. In truth, much of the music here is so good, and so uninhibited in its flair and abandon, that it would be hard not to be swept along by it. Just to put a small dose of context and factual background to this piece of rollicking intergalactic insanity, Sudler’s Row are a US project, and the brainchild of multi-instrumentalist and composer Nathan Ames, who plays everything here. But you don’t want to know about that, do you? You want to know about Rexx Baxter, what his chronicles are going to reveal, and why he has a double X in his first name. And who can blame you. Well, let’s head along to our nearest spaceport and see what’s been going on in the 33rd fleet…

One thing which might surprise the listener eager to get to the story of this mighty galactic power-struggle is that all three of the pieces here are in fact instrumental. But wait, that doesn’t mean you have to guess what is happening. Oh no, because each one is introduced by a portentous slice of spoken-word narration to let us know what’s going to be happening as we listen to the soundtrack to the galactic war. We are informed that the Galactic Federation Space Station has been attacked in devastating fashion by the Sonarians, which is very much Not A Good Thing. Admiral Pennington, the head honcho of the beleagured Federation, calls in the aid of our hero Rexx, together with his magnificently named Galactic Gypsies, and the fun begins in this first song (or ‘Chronicle 1’) which is named, unsurprisingly, Galactic Gypsy. Now, at this point you might be on a knife edge, teetering between excitement to see what comes next or dread that this might be the most outrageous hogwash. Well, of course it IS, proudly and unapologetically, the most ludicrous hogwash, but that’s the point – and further to that it’s really quite amazing. As an aside, you HAVE to listen to this on a good set of headphones – if you don’t, you’ve really missed the point, because almost immediately we are assaulted by a barrage of explosions, battle sounds and tremendous spacey swoops and whooshes which ricochet around inside your head like a swarm of angry bees which have taken a wrong turning into your brain. This is accompanied by a massive slice of space-rock which ramps up the epic nature by calling to mind the Planet Gong discovering Kashmir and Perfect Strangers. It’s Steve Hillage on Steroids, and if this is the soundtrack to galactic conflict, then I for one welcome our Sonarian Overlords. Although this is, of course, the Galactic Gypsies on their way to sort them out via some eye-rollingly cosmic musical accompaniment, and things are getting interesting.

The second track, Byzantium, has the grand showdown between Our Hero and the dastardly Sonarian villains, twirling their metaphorical moustaches. This grand battle is represented in rather splendid fashion by six minutes of high quality progressive metal – which one has to say is the way all wars should be decided in a perfect world (well, maybe by twelve minutes – we can always be greedy!). Towards the end of the track it becomes clear that victory has been accomplished, as some spirited and appropriately dramatic space-rock enters proceedings, spiralling upward in an unmistakeably triumphant manner. No narration is required here to be certain that the Galactic Gypsies have won the day, taking the fight to the Sonarians’ own turf (the planet X-29Z) and emerging triumphant. Marvellous stuff, although it remains unclear as to why the piece is entitled Byzantium (although ‘The Byzantine Empire Strikes Back’ does have a certain ring to it!)

All which remains now in this admittedly brief tale of spacefaring derring-do is to return home as the conquering heroes, which happens in the third, slightly less obscurely titled Coming Home. Admiral Pennington has been rescued, the Sonarian base is no more, and it’s time for what is arguably the best track on here. The spirit of Gong and Hawkwind is once again sent forth across the galaxy to provide a stirring, uplifting piece, at once fast-paced and triumphant. The effect is not unlike a space-rock Fanfare For The Common Man in its exhilaratingly propulsive drive, if you can mentally construct such an idea. I can, and it sounds glorious! A perfect way to close what is one of the more unexpectedly bizarre yet enjoyable EPs I’ve had the pleasure to listen to in quite some time. Okay, this is not Grand Science Fiction Art, but it makes no claim to be. It’s far less 2001: A Space Odyssey and far more Star Wars: A Space Opera, and ultimately, that is entirely the point.

There is only one thing remaining to say about this, namely: we’ve had the EP, and the subtitle ‘Chapter 1’, but this absolutely must become a full album release. All three of these pieces alone could easily have been extended significantly without wearing out their welcome, and a whole saga of narrated, extended musical workouts like this – obviously accompanied by sleeve notes filling in the whole story background for the self-confessed nerds among us – would put the seal on the whole project. Come on Rexx Baxter – you can make it happen! To Infinity And Beyond (or at least the length of a CD)…